Police praise calmness of local people during weekend's far-right protest over 'militant Islam'
Thirteen people were arrested after far-right activists threw missiles and attacked officers during a protest organised by the English Defence League at the weekend, police confirmed today.
A hail of smoke bombs, bricks and bottles hit anti-racist supporters and residents in Bradford on Saturday as about 700 EDL activists held a "static protest" in the city centre. Despite the violence, fears of a repeat of the riots that devastated the city in 2001 proved unfounded, and politicians, the police and community leaders today praised the reaction of residents in the city.
Chief Superintendent Alison Rose said none of those arrested lived in Bradford. "The mood of the district in general has been one of calm, and local people have co-operated and supported the police by behaving sensibly and avoiding conflict. Although there has been some disruption to the city centre, we are returning to normality and the people of Bradford should be proud."
Martin Love, a Green party councillor in Shipley, said there was a sense of relief in the city. "An awful lot of people heeded the warnings to stay out of the city centre. Ignoring the EDL shows them what people here really think and that has wider potential. If we can prevent them causing trouble in Bradford, other places which they target will take heart and follow our example."
The home secretary, Theresa May, authorised a ban on one march this month after a 10,000-strong petition from local people. But police and politicians claimed they were powerless to prevent the far-right group holding a "static protest" in Bradford.
Paul Meszaros, a co-ordinator of the Bradford Together campaign, which collected the petition signatures, paid tribute to people in Bradford.
He said: "In the face of that provocation and racist chanting, the way all the people of Bradford, but the particularly the Muslim people, reacted – the way we stood by this city – was wonderful. Hopefully this means we can finally put the events of 2001 behind us."
More than 1,600 officers from 13 forces were involved in the police operation on the day. The EDL, which has held demonstrations in urban areas across Britain over the past 12 months, formed in 2009, and has since become the most significant far-right street movement in the UK since the National Front in the 1970s.
The EDL says it is a peaceful, non-racist organisation, opposed only to "militant Islam". But many of its demonstrations have ended in confrontations with the police following activist violence, as well as racist and Islamophobic chanting.
The group had predicted that thousands of its supporters would turn out in Bradford at the weekend for what was dubbed "the big one", but the police said there were about 700 people. Coachloads of far-right activists arrived in the afternoon chanting anti-muslim abuse, and skirmishes continued throughout the day between EDL supporters and the police.